Researchers discover 3 new species in Australia

(Graphic by Brett Ferrin)
(Graphic by Brett Ferrin)

Scientists have found what is being called the discovery of a lifetime. On the northern tip of Queensland, Australia, three new previously undocumented species have been found. Scientists say their findings are a “lost world.”

“Doing research is important to know as much as we can,” said Weber State University zoology professor John Mull. “We need to know about the place that we live in and document those things. Currently the rate of extinction is very high. We’re not even aware of a lot of the species that we’re harming.”

The species discovered was a leaf-tail gecko that can grow up to 8 inches long, a golden skink, and a boulder-dwelling frog. It is believed that the species found have been isolated for millions of years. Many scientists have explored the cape mountains, but the rainforest on the plateau atop them remains vastly unexplored.

The discovery of these new species is significant because areas such as Australia tend to be highly explored, yet scientists are still finding niches in nature that remain undiscovered.

“The main significance is that there are places that are very well studied, such as Australia, and there are also places that aren’t studied enough,” Mull said. “Even places that are highly explored, there are still findings out there, particularly in that kind of habitat, such as the rainforest that harbors the greatest number of species. Even in places like Utah, we’re routinely making new discoveries.”

The scientists also found many other species that may also be new to science, but it was the three vertebrates that were the most distinct. The species will be documented in “Zootaxa,” a journal for animal taxonomists.

Zoology student Maya Pendelton was excited by the discovery. “I want to do research like these guys are doing, and knowing that even in places that are often explored . . . discoveries are still being made is really encouraging.”

The gecko species has been named Saltuarius eximius, meaning exceptional or exquisite, because of its distinct appearance. Patrick Couper, curator of reptiles and frogs at Queensland Museum, remarked that this new species of gecko is the strangest species to come across his desk.

The skink hunts during the day and hops across mossy boulders to find insects. It has a golden hue and is isolated to the plateau rainforest. The skink has been named Saproscincus saltus, which means leaping.

The blotched boulder frog’s species name is Cophixalus petrophilus, which means rock-loving. The frog loves water and only surfaces when it is raining. During the dry season, the frog lives deep down in the boulders where it is cool and moist.

“These discoveries are important and do affect us, because even if it’s thousands of miles away, we need to be aware of the world that’s around us,” said Josie Bonham, teacher and naturalist at the Ogden Nature Center.

Due to the recent findings, more explorations of the area are planned. Mull explained that these explorations are important because many of the species may play important unforeseen roles.

“The species could have an important use and role in medicine. They may have medicines in their compounds that we aren’t even aware of. Understanding them can help us better understand humans. Also, the more species you have in a place, the better that system works. We need to care about them, because their fate affects our fate.”